Digital Week 2017 – The Future of Search, by Google

Katie Kirwan
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On: 16 Nov 2017
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Three Digital Week

One of the highlights of Three’s recent Digital Week 2017 was a glimpse into the future of search, by Aidan Kenny of Google.

As Search and Performance Lead, he has watched closely as search has developed and used the event to reveal how it will further evolve.

About Digital Week

Each year, Three’s Digital team hosts a week of insightful events for all the other teams across the business. The in-house Digital team looks after Three’s websites, apps and all the many systems in the background that keep them running. On the team there are developers, designers, SEO experts, digital marketers, and specialists in UI, UX, eCommerce, digital transformation and digital products – in short, a wealth of knowledge.

Digital Week is an opportunity for leading names in the digital world to share their thoughts and visions. It comprised daily morning sessions with members of the Digital team, and afternoon sessions with experts from other companies such as Fjord Dublin, Polemic Digital, Google and Bank of Ireland.

Boosting digital knowledge is important for every role in business today. What we have all learned during Digital Week will help us more effectively manage our products and services in a constantly evolving digital world.

The Future of Search – Aidan Kenny, Google Ireland

“The perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you need.”

Larry Page, Google Co-Founder

With Google for seven years, Aidan Kenny has had a ringside seat at the evolution of search – though of course, he has personal experience of it going back much further. He remembers the first time he accessed the internet back in 1998 with a “glacially slow” dial-up connection, a tightly regulated amount of time allowed online, and a search engine that couldn’t cope with synonyms.

A decade and a half later, Aidan has seen search change almost beyond recognition, in both scale and operation. There are now over 100 billion searches every month. Over half are made on mobile devices – and with the number of mobile users projected to be five billion by 2020, that proportion is going to increase. Every day, 15% of searches have never been seen before by Google. Yet whatever people are searching for, they are all looking for the same thing: a more helpful result, available in more ways and from more places.

Knowledge Graph

With the development of search beyond the bounds of websites – within apps, connected homes, wearable tech and connected cars, for example – it is key that search engines understand the context of a search to be able to deliver more helpful results. Humans can assimilate facts and understand the relationships of facts with each other; a search engine should do the same. Aidan outlined how Google’s Knowledge Graph aims to achieve this.

Knowledge Graph helps Google understand relationships and connections. For example, Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie is in the Knowledge Graph, as is the fact that her husband Pierre and one of her two children also won Nobel Prizes. All of these facts are linked in the Knowledge Graph, so it’s not just a catalogue, it’s a model of related facts.

It’s the intelligence between different entities that’s the key. This enables Google to sometimes answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the results shown are informed by this intelligence and what other people have searched for.

The Age of Assistance

Sometimes we want answers, sometimes we want more, which – as Aidan’s talk revealed – Google is working to give us. Google has set out to design a personal assistant that understands voice and natural language, engages with users conversationally and surfaces information from across all of Google’s products. Google Assistant has knowledge of the world around you, but also understands your own world – answering questions on everything from `where is the nearest coffee shop’ to `what time is my flight leaving’. It can also help from within apps – for example, if you’re chatting about a particular restaurant in a messaging app, you can ask it to look up opening times without leaving your chat.

For example, you are a Chelsea FC fan and while the team is playing, you type Chelsea into Google. What an immersive response gives you is not just a Google search result, but also information from across all of Google’s products (YouTube, Maps, Apps) for example.

Aidan concluded his talk by describing how, ultimately, search will accept either voice or text input and will allow a two-way conversational thread powered by Google Assistant.

If we apply Larry Page’s definition of the perfect search engine, quoted by Aidan at the beginning of his talk, search is well on its way to being better than perfect.

 

Find out how your peers are embracing digital change while minimising disruption in our Practical Advice guide: